Yesterday it was revealed that yet another Russian VIP had been found dead following an alleged fall. Pavel Antov, Russia’s highest-earning elected politician, had been holidaying in India, six months after taking to social media to brand Russia’s airstrikes on Kyiv as “terror.” The announcement is just one in a string of mysterious deaths involving critics or opponents of Putin to have taken place this year.
Antov, 65, was a wealthy sausage magnate-turned-politician from western Russia. In 2018, he was ranked number one on the Forbes list of the 100 richest civil servants in Russia.
So, how exactly did he die?
So far, all we know is that Antov’s body was found in a pool of blood on Saturday, Dec. 24, outside a hotel in India where he had recently celebrated his birthday.
Police confirmed on Tuesday that they were reviewing CCTV footage from the hotel, were questioning hotel staff, and were preparing to review the autopsy report.
“All possible angles as regards to the deaths of two Russian nationals are being verified,” Rajesh Pandit, a regional police chief told AFP.
Wait, TWO Russian nationals?
Yep. That’s where things get “interesting.”
Antov’s death took place just two days after one of his travel companions, Vladimir Bidenov, was found unconscious inside the same hotel. Though paramedics attempted to revive him from what they suspected to be a heart attack, Bidenov died at the scene.
But how do we know Antov’s death wasn’t a suicide?
The truth is that we can’t say that his death, when viewed as an isolated event, was in any way suspicious. But when compared to a series of similar deaths, and taking the Kremlin’s track record of “dealing” with its opponents into consideration, it’s more than reasonable to start asking questions.
Furthermore, his death comes six months after he raised eyebrows in Moscow for criticizing Russia’s missile strikes on Ukraine.
“A girl has been pulled out from under the rubble, the girl’s father appears to have died,” he wrote on Telegram at the time. “The mother is trying to be pulled out with a crane. She is trapped under a slab. To tell the truth, it is extremely difficult to call this anything other than terror.”
After the subsequent backlash from Kremlin loyalists, Antov issued an apology, writing on Telegram that there had been an “unfortunate misunderstanding” and that he had “always supported the President.”
So, who else has died in similar circumstances?
There have been quite a few.
In September, Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former head of the Moscow Aviation Institute, was pronounced dead after allegedly falling down a flight of stairs. Gerashchenko had long been suspected of being involved in espionage.
A couple of weeks before that, Ravi Maganov, the chairman of the board of Russia’s largest private oil company, was found dead after allegedly falling from a window on the sixth floor of a hospital. The company had previously called for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In fact, the mysterious death toll has been rising since January, shortly before the invasion began, and not all of them have been “falls.”
On Jan. 30, 60-year-old Leonid Shulman, the transport chief for Russian energy plant Gazprom, was found dead beside a suicide note in the bathroom of his country house.
In May, Andrei Krukovsky, General Director of a ski resort owned by Gazprom, was found dead after reportedly “falling off a cliff” while hiking.
Then, in August, Russian businessman Dan Rapoport died after allegedly falling from the window of his apartment in Washington.
In September, the body of Ivan Pechorin, Director of Aviation of the Russian Far East and Arctic Development Corporation (KRDV) was found washed up in Beregovoe after allegedly falling from his boat.
This month, Grigory Kochenov, Creative Director of IT company Agima “fell to his death” from a balcony while Russian police officers were searching his apartment.
We could go on and on. A detailed list, however, can be found here.
So, despite this article being an explainer, it’s fair to say that the true cause of the above deaths remains unexplainable. But, then again, it’s also to fair to say that it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to realize something fishy is afoot.
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